Judson and Jackie Williams
In May 1996, Jackie and Judson Williams made an important estate planning decision, one that came naturally to these two lifelong supporters of The University of Texas at El Paso. The couple established the Williams Charitable Remainder Unitrust, a philanthropic vehicle that allowed them to set aside a large gift for UTEP, payable upon their passing, which would in the meantime provide the couple an annual income.
Judson passed away in 1997, leaving a legacy of engagement with UTEP and the city of El Paso that few will ever rival, and Jackie's gracefully lived life ended with equal grace in January 2009. The gift to UTEP the couple had established 13 years prior was realized in the months that followed, and has been directed toward the Judson and Jackie Williams Presidential Leadership Fund, a fund Jackie had already been steadily building in the years following her husband's death.
"There was never a question as to what they were going to do," says their daughter, Jeanne Braneff (B.S.Ed. '68). "We had always known as a family that they would endow UTEP."
The Williams' lifetime of contributions to UTEP's mission were thoughtful and broad, providing financial support for everything from the library and scholarships to athletics and facilities development. But their monetary gifts began 30 years after they had each made a personal commitment to UTEP as professors, a happenstance that also led to their lifelong commitment to one another.
Hired to establish a journalism program at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP), Judson Williams left Fort Worth for El Paso in 1939. That same year, Jackie Roe, of Hillsboro, Texas, received two competing offers: one to join the San Francisco Opera Company and another to become professor of vocal music at TCM. She chose the latter, met Judson at the faculty formal, and they were married in 1941.
There are few areas of UTEP and their beloved El Paso that the couple's generosity did not touch. After serving as chair of the journalism department as well as the dean of student life for nine years, Judson left what had become Texas Western College in 1956 to join the private sector. In 1963, he won the first of his three two-year terms as mayor of El Paso. His involvement with TWC, however, did not end when he left the College. As mayor, he joined Texas Western's Mission '73 committee, which was instrumental in gaining university status for the College and ensuring its viability for the foreseeable future.
Jackie gave up her position at TCM following her marriage. While raising four children, she continued teaching, giving private voice lessons; directed the choirs of several churches and one synagogue; and was a perennial civic leader, serving as president of several women's organizations on both the local and national levels.
It is due to their deep involvement in the administration of both UTEP and El Paso that Jackie and Judson's final and most significant gift was directed simply to support UTEP's most pressing needs. "Education meant everything to them," Braneff says in summing up the meaning behind their final gift. "Daddy just wanted UTEP to always remain and grow to be a first-class university."